Tuesday, November 11, Hegel s Idealism

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1 Hegel s Idealism

2 G. W. F. Hegel

3

4 Hegel Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel ( ) was perhaps the last great philosophical system builder. His distinctively dynamic form of idealism set the stage for other nineteenth-century Western philosophers. Hegel, like Kant, is an idealist: Everything depends on mind. The world as we know it is something we construct.

5 Kant s Philosophy of Mind Understanding This is a triangle Concept Appearance Sensibility Thing in itself

6 Critique of Kant Noumena (things-in-themselves) play no role in Kantʼs system. The pure concepts of the understanding do not apply to them. So, they do not fall under the categories.

7 Critique of Kant We cannot say that things-in-themselves, in combination with our cognitive faculties, cause things to appear as they do, for causation is one of the categories. We cannot even officially say that things-in-themselves exist!

8 Hegel s Philosophy of Mind Understanding This is a triangle Concept Appearance Sensibility Thing in itself

9 The Self The same reasoning applies to the self For Kant, my body is part of the world of appearance, governed by physical laws But I the transcendental unity of apperception, the noumenal self am free! Hegel: This division makes no sense get rid of the noumenal self

10

11 Kant s Rationalism There are innate ideas: pure concepts of the understanding (the categories) There are synthetic a priori truths (laws of the understanding) But they apply only within realm of experience

12 Historicism Kant maintained that we could have universal and necessary knowledge of the world by uncovering the laws of the understanding. To give us universal and necessary knowledge, those laws must be constant; they must be the same for each person, in all times and circumstances. Why, however, should we expect human beings to construct the world in the same way, at all times and places, in all circumstances, in all cultures?

13 Historicism Hegel contends that the way in which we construct the world develops systematically over time. Philosophy, like other aspects of human thought, thus varies with historical circumstances. Philosophy is its own time raised to the level of thought.

14 Absolute Spirit Hegel tells the story of Spirit or Mind (in German, Geist), which progresses through a variety of stages to reach Absolute Knowledge.

15 Dynamic Principles This is not to say that philosophy cannot express any universal or necessary truths. But they are not the kinds of truths sought by Kant or other previous rationalists. What stays constant across historical circumstances are not a priori propositions or innate concepts but the set of dynamic principles governing the development of our ways of constructing the world.

16 Dynamic Principles Hegel finds some universal and necessary truths. But they are high-level, dynamic principles governing the development of thought. The best known is the thesisantithesis-synthesis pattern.

17 Hegel s Historicism Theories about theories (absolute) Theories about the world (relative)

18 Hegel s Logic Thesis Antithesis Synthesis

19 Dynamic Patterns of Thought Thesis Antithesis Synthesis

20 Thesis People adopt a certain way of looking at and thinking about the world (the thesis). Because it is only partially correct, over time people encounter contrary evidence, counterexamples, anomalies, and contradictions.

21 Antithesis Inspired by these, they shift to a new and contrary way of looking at and thinking about things (the antithesis). That too is only a partial truth, however, so it also gradually confronts contrary evidence, counterexamples, anomalies, and contradictions.

22 Synthesis The conflict between thesis and antithesis is eventually transcended in a synthesis that draws elements from both while transforming the way people see and think. That becomes a new thesis, and the process begins again.

23 Social Character of Thought Hegel sees human thought as essentially social. The social and historical context of thought is crucial. We learn our language, which provides our basic categories of thought, from other people, at a particular time, in the context of a particular society. What Kant and other rationalists take as stemming from our nature as knowers Hegel sees as reflecting a specific social background.

24 Dynamics of the Self Hegel, rejecting things-in-themselves, sees the unity of the self not as a given but as an achievement. His Phenomenology of Spirit (phenomenology = study of phenomena, that is, appearances) traces the development of the self through a variety of stages, including one he famously terms unhappy consciousness.

25 Unhappy Consciousness The self is divided, alienated from itself. We overcome that alienation socially.

26 Unhappy Consciousness We achieve self-consciousness by recognizing other people as selfconscious agents, being recognized as selves by them, and recognizing that recognition ourselves. We become integrated selves by being seen as such by others we recognize as selves.

27 Myth of the Given Hegel rejects what he refers to as immediacy, the sharp divide in Kant and the empiricists between sensibility and understanding between perception and conceptual knowledge. Hegel denies that we can distinguish any given, preconceptual portion of our experience. The concepts we have shape the way we perceive the world.

28 Norms We construct norms They are relative to a historical period and social context They express the World Spirit in its current state of development But they progress toward the Absolute Whatever is, is right!

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